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Mbalula, Deputy clash over 'take over' of Joburg by foreigners

by Staff reporter
23 Jul 2017 at 11:59hrs | Views
SOUTH AFRICAN Government ministers last week clashed over the alleged "take over" of the city of Johannesburg by foreign nationals as well as their contribution to crime.

Deputy Police Minister Bongani Mkongi was quoted in the media accusing foreign nationals in Hillbrow and surrounding suburbs of economic sabotage. He claimed 80 percent of Hillbrow and surrounding areas was occupied by foreign nationals, the majority of whom he said were engaged in various forms of crime like hijacking of buildings and illegal trade.

Areas such as Hillbrow, Berea and Yeoville are known to accommodate foreigners from countries like Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Nigeria and Ghana, among others. The statement by the Deputy Minister was viewed as promoting xenophobia with many foreign nationals blaming him for what they viewed as a "reckless" statement. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) also strongly condemned the "irresponsible" utterances by Deputy Minister Mkongi.

Deputy Minister Mkongi visited a Hillbrow police station where he talked to officers about the high number of crimes committed using unlicensed firearms, hijacked buildings and illegal trade.

"If we don't debate that, that necessarily means the whole of South Africa could be 80 percent dominated by foreign nationals and the future president of South Africa could be a foreign national," he was quoted as saying.

He claimed foreign nationals were hijacking old buildings while locals did not have anywhere to go. Minister Mkongi said South Africans have to come up with ideas to make sure foreign nationals don't take land away from them.

"How can a city in South Africa be 80 percent foreign nationals? That is dangerous. South Africans have surrendered their own city to the foreigners . . ."

He added that his statement was not xenophobic, but the Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula, told the media that his Deputy Minister was offside.

Minister Mbalula, who was also caught in the eye of the storm early this year when he claimed former members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces were involved in violent crime in South Africa before being forced to retract his statement after reactions from Zimbabwe, said he had directed his deputy to correct his recent remarks.

"I've gone through what he said, and indeed, that is too rough. I do understand what he said. He was trying to address a problem in Hillbrow . . . (but) We cannot say that. We must do what the law permits," Minister Mbalula was quoted as saying.

"Those (people) who are illegal, we must get them out. Those who are there as immigrants, they are fine. They must stay there. We cannot have an attitude that they are not supposed to be here. It is problematic and that statement (by Mkongi) is regrettable."

Mbalula said he had discussed the matter with Minister Mkongi, and the Deputy Minister would be amending his remarks soon.

"The deputy minister and I have agreed that he will issue a statement, explaining that his comments, while they were meant for a good purpose, could actually be misused to attack our African brothers. That statement borders on xenophobia."

On Monday, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) strongly condemned the "irresponsible" utterances by Deputy Minister Mkongi.

"South Africa is already grappling with the scourge of violent xenophobic attacks, often directed against fellow South African non-nationals. As a figure of authority in the department of police - and by extension across society - the deputy minister is expected to exercise a great deal of circumspection in his public utterances. Not only are the statements factually incorrect, in that he claims, without evidence to the effect, that 80 percent of the city is occupied by foreign nationals, they also unjustifiably ascribe crime to foreign nationals as an undifferentiated group," said the SAHRC in a statement.

"Leaders are expected to constructively shape public debate and social cohesion through evidence-based statements. Repeating stereotypes does not advance the goals of upholding the fundamental rights of all in society."

Zimbabwean Ambassador in South Africa Isaac Moyo is on record as saying while Zimbabwe dos not condone crime, it did not subscribe to "ill-informed statements" that were not accurate. He added that there were proper channels at government level to be followed to solve issues to do with Zimbabweans living in South Africa.

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Source - sundaynews